John Akinde netted a late equaliser for Gillingham on Saturday afternoon as the Gills played out a 2-2 draw with Rochdale.
After Vadaine Oliver put the home side ahead in the first half, Jimmy Keohane fired a quick fire brace in the second period to put his side ahead. Akinde, though, scored in the dying seconds of the game, and the points were shared.
Story of the match
The game started in even fashion, before the first chance of the game fell to the away side after five minutes. After a misplaced pass from a Gills shirt, Matthew Lund let fly from distance, but Gills goalkeeper Jack Bonham was on hand to tip the effort over the bar.
Bonham was called into action again just minutes later. After working the ball nicely around the edge of the box, Oliver Rathbone shot from distance again. Bonham managed to get a fingertip on the midfielder’s dipping effort, but the ball still flicked the top of the crossbar on its way out for a corner.
As the game progressed, an interesting spectacle unfolded. Rochdale, as expected, dominated possession, but without doing too much with it. Gillingham held their shape well and were happy to let their visitors ball the ball round the back, which the opening exchanges saw a lot of.
Matthew Lund should have put his side ahead on 25 minutes, however. Unmarked from a set piece, Lund headed into the ground and over the ball from inside the six-yard box – head in hands as the ball went out for a goal kick.
Gillingham’s first shot in anger came on 28 minutes. From a free kick, Jordan Graham whipped wide, trying to catch out Dale ‘keeper Gavin Bazunu when it seemed more likely he would cross.
Alex Newby fired high and wide from the left as we headed towards half time, and there really was little in the game at that point. That was until Vadaine Oliver fired Gillingham ahead on 43 minutes.
Following a short corner, Jordan Graham fed Callum Slattery, who whipped in a nice-looking ball towards the Dale back post. Oliver met the cross, and Bazunu produced a save, but the rebound fell straight to Oliver who fired high into the net to give Gillingham the lead.
Both managers had vocal first halves on the touchline, but they would have a lot of thinking to do at the interval.
Kwadwo Baah had the first effort of the second half, cutting inside from the right but firing straight at Jack Bonham.
Gillingham should have doubled their lead on 53 minutes when Connor Ogilvie met Jordan Graham’s whipped free kick inside the area. Gavin Bazunu, however, was on hand to produce an excellent save and keep the Gills’ tally at one.
Tom O’Connor then broke forward from left back minutes later on the counter. With Oliver and MacDonald up with him, O’Connor drilled low across goal, but in front of the sprinting attackers, and out for a goal kick.
On 69 minutes, Rochdale were level. A well worked piece of play saw Matty Lund chip to Jimmy Keohane on the left, and the forward didn’t think twice before slotting past Jack Bonham from just inside the area.
And just six minutes later, they took the lead, and it was Keohane again. With the ball on the edge of the box and a number of bodies to shoot through, the forward let fly and, with Bonham unsighted, found the bottom corner to put the visitors 2-1 up.
Gillingham tried to attack, and it paid off late on when John Akinde fired in a 93rd minute equaliser. After a bit of pinball, Akinde broke free from his defender and slotted past Bazunu with just seconds to go, and the points were shared.
Takeaways from the match
Rochdale, as they often, do, dominated the game in terms of possession. There were regular stalemates in play, with Dale passing the ball round the back and Gillingham happy to do so, reluctant to press.
What Brian Barry-Murphy is trying to do at Rochdale is interesting. It is a brand of football rarely seen in League One, and it is starting to pay off.
Slattery impressed once again for his new club after joining on loan from Southampton last week. The midfielder put himself about and got stuck in from a deeper position than where he played against Accrington Stanley last weekend and provided an excellent cross for Oliver’s goal. He is looking to be a shrewd signing by the Gills.
On debut, the Luton Town loanee looked like he’d been playing in the Rochdale defence his whole career. He looked comfortable on the ball and defended well next to Haydon Roberts. He will fit into Dale’s system perfectly.
The Dale wide man caused Gillingham problems all afternoon and was rewarded in the second half with his brace. He took both goals excellently and won the game for his side.
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, Ogilvie, O’Connor, Slattery (Willock 90), Dempsey, Graham, Lee, MacDonald (Johnson 77) , Oliver (Akinde 77)
Subs not used: Walsh, Lintott, McKenzie, O’Keefe.
Rochdale: Bazunu, McLaughlin, Osho, Dooley, Morley, Newby, Keohane, Rathbone, Roberts, Lund, Baah (Hopper 84).
Subs not used: Beesley, Done, Tavares, Bradley, Brierley.